Stone Angel, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Katie May Green; Philomel, $16.99, 40 pages, ages 5-8.
On April 16 the world paused to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, called Yom HaShoah in Hebrew. Many children’s books aim to guide parents in explaining a horrific moment in global history, (A bibliography of such books, compiled by the United States Holocaust Museum, can be found here) and Caldecott Honor and Jewish Book Council award winner Jane Yolen adds another story to that list in her recently published Stone Angel.
Here, Yolen returns to the topic she covered in The Devil’s Arithemetic (1988), where a Polish family is sent to Auschwitz. In Stone Angel, we meet a young French girl whose family flees into the woods rather than be sent to concentration camps by the Nazis. They live in caves, forage for berries and onions, and cross mountains to eventually escape the Continent on a rickety boat bound for England. Despite great suffering, the girl feels protected by angels and often imagines being protected by the stone angel carved into the side of her family’s Parisian apartment building. After the war, the family returns home, where they are greeted by that colossal 30 foot stone structure. (There is indeed an angel at 57 Rue de Turbigo, the setting for Yolen’s story; it was built by architect Eugene Demangeat in 1860 and can still be visited today.) The appropriately dark and haunting illustrations by Katie May Green convey both menace and glimmers of hope – out of the dark and gloom, the young girl’s face is always illuminated, suggesting that this family will overcome their struggles. Stone Angel is a tale of survival, and while it doesn’t delve deep into the well-documented horrors of the Holocaust, it offers adults a graceful way to introduce young readers to a difficult subject.